Sunday, September 15, 2013


Chances are saxophonist Kenny Garrett will claim his forthcoming album “pushing the world away,” his  seventeenth overall and third for Mack Avenue Records, is not another tribute album. It sure as hell sounds like one. That is perfectly fine because Garrett makes wonderful tribute albums. “Pursuance: The Music of John Coltrane” and “Sketches of MD Live at the Iridium” are two gems in his body of work. “pushing the world away,” due out nationwide September 17th is not a nod to any particular jazz musician.

Garrett wrote songs for some of his idols such as Sonny Rollins, Chick Corea, and Chucho Valdez. On the album Garrett is the same ball-busting, swing crazed saxophonist his fan base adores. On “Brother Brown,” a nod to the album’s producer Donald Brown, one of Garrett’s longtime friends, Garrett sent his regular piano player Benito Gonzalez on a coffee and doughnut run while Garrett played piano. How is he on the instrument? It is not his natural habitat. Nonetheless he played competently. The albums prom queen is the closer “Rotation”. On it, he used two pianists Vernell Brown and Gonzalez, both gobble up the changes like freshly baked pastries.

Ahmad Jamal has made another flawless jazz album “Saturday Morning”. That is not a big surprise given the pianist has been making albums well over 50 years. Jazzbook Records let loose “Saturday Morning” the 10th of September. It has his bodacious working band the bassist Reginald Veal,  the drummer Herlin Riley and the percussionist Manolo Badrena. It’s hard to go wrong with that kind of backing. Of the 11 cuts on “Saturday Morning,” Jamal wrote seven, the others are standards. The band burned the town down on the title track “One,” which is a crowd favorite at Jamal’s live shows. This album’s odds on favorites are “I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good” and “I’m In The Mood For Love”. There is nothing like hearing Jamal gussying up the old standards.

Wilford Brimley is a known character actor who has performed in classic films such as “Absence of Malice” and “Cocoon,” and who has been in a shitload of television commercials. He has developed an alter ego as a jazz singer with a fondness for the great American Songbook. Brimley’s first album backed by a road-tested jazz trio is “Wilford Brimley with the Jeff Hamilton Trio” is due out the 17th of September on Capri Records. It is pretty special for a vocalist pushing 80 with low mileage in jazz. How did Brimley hook up with the jazz drummer Jeff Hamilton?

They talked after a Hamilton concert in Vail, Co. Brimley sent Hamilton several recordings. After listening to his work, Hamilton began mulling over the trio collaborating with the actor. Hamilton and Brimley thumbed through the American Songbook, deciding on songs that suited Brimley’s thick, conversational voice. “Wilford Brimley with the Jeff Hamilton Trio” has 15 standards some are jumpers others are slow jams. Brimley sounds best on some of the slow jams they picked  “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face,” “I Have Dream” and "This Love of Mind”. 

As for the Jeff Hamilton trio-pianist Tamir Hendleman and bassist Christopher Luty-understood Brimley has limited experience as a jazz singer. So they did not imposed unrealistic expectations on him. Neither did they go easy on him. Brimley pulled through mostly on his own merit. He is no Mel Torme or Tony Bennett but for a veteran character actor pushing 80, he sounded damn good with a big name jazz trio.

Before Blue Note Records unveils Gregory Porter’s new album “Liquid Spirit” nationwide Tuesday, the label should issue a Public Service Announcement, warning people they might get hooked on his voice immediately after listening to the album’s opener “No Love Dying”. Of course, the warning does not apply to those are already fans of his mighty baritone voice. 

Porter just has it like that. He is a freak of nature, but not an overnight sensation. He worked hard and deserves all the accolades and praise his fans and music critics have lavished on him. “Liquid Spirit” is his third album, his first debut for Blue Note. The Harlem New York based record label Motema Records put out his others “Water” and “Be Good”.

“Liquid Spirit is borderline perfect. Porter is stretched thinly performing up-tempo songs, covers and love songs. Midway through you wish he would have stuck with singing the love songs. He is at his absolute best on them. The love songs he chose for “Liquid Spirit” are not the baby-making variety but they seduce the heart. “Hey Laura” will make any woman melt and a Sumo wrestler feel all tingly inside. He gives the “Lonesome Lover” and “I Fall In Love Too Easily a thorough airbrushing. It is hard to categorize Porter because he sings many styles beautifully.
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